For anyone not traveling to Kansas City for the game, we have a treat in the booth this week:
Hello, friends...@Jaguars fans back in Jacksonville will hear from Jim Nantz, Tony Romo and @tracywolfson for back-to-back weeks on the call, as the CBS crew has been assigned to JAX @ Kansas City in Week 5 and JAX @ Dallas in Week 6.— Tad Dickman (@TDickman89) October 4, 2018
UNIFORM WATCH: Debut of new white tops and black trousers for Sunday.
Ed. Note: Yaaaaaaaassssssssss
Riding into week five with an undefeated record, the Chiefs are working on a short week after overcoming a ten-point fourth quarter deficit on the road against divisional rival Denver Broncos. The result probably works in favor of the Jaguars as the Chiefs will roll into this game with an air of invincibility, which is always dangerous from a sports psychology standpoint.
Offensively, the Chiefs are playing chess while the rest of the NFL is playing checkers. Patrick Mahomes is 5-0 in his career as an NFL starter and has seemingly taken his Big 12 offense with him from Texas Tech as he is currently on pace for 56 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. When you factor in his computer-like processing, quick release, arm strength, and improvisational skills outside the pocket, Mahomes becomes almost impossible to stop and unlikely to contain.
Combine these rare attributes with offensive weapons that include Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins, and Kareem Hunt out of the backfield, and the Chiefs are a recipe for explosive play headaches. There will be times in this game where Todd Wash will scheme up the ideal play call, it will be perfectly executed, and Mahomes will still find a way to complete a pass, which will be frustrating for fans and players alike. I expect the Jags to put Tashaun Gipson in man coverage on Kelce for most of the game and play press man on the outside to take advantage of their size at the cornerback position, jamming the receivers off the line to give the defensive line an extra second to apply pressure. This can be an extremely boom-or-bust game in regards to the defense compiling some sacks and takeaways, but their league-leading 14 points allowed per game will likely take a hit this week.
My guy to keep an eye on this week? Tight end Demetrius Harris.
While everyone in the country will be tuning in to see the top ranked offense against the top ranked defense, it’s actually the other units that will most likely decide this game. The Chiefs defense has been fairly miserable so far this season, allowing a league-high 451 total yards and 28 first downs per game.
Nathanial Hackett and the Jaguars will need to continue to throw on first down to open up the run and allow T.J. Yeldon to add to Chiefs’ 5.7 allowed yards per carry average. Coming off a career high in passing yards, Blake Bortles will need to keep the momentum going against a secondary that likely won’t be able to keep up with the speed that the Jaguars have at wide receiver, and expect the Chiefs to attack with zone coverages to take away the Jaguars’ staple crossing routes.
As poorly as the Chiefs defense has performed across the board, here is one interesting tidbit to keep in mind – they currently rank first in third down defense, and when the defense has had to make a stop to win the game (like a three and out to give Mahomes the ball back in the fourth quarter on Monday), they’ve answered the bell.
For some thoughts from the Chiefs’ persepctive, check out Ryan O’Bleness’ crossover piece with Pete Sweeney of Arrowhead Pride.
Offense wins games, defense wins championships. Is that adage true?
Well, in the last seven top ranked offense versus top ranked defense regular season match ups, the offensive team has won six of them. Not great for the Jaguars. With that being said, the NFL hasn’t really seen a defense like this in almost a decade.
The @Jaguars are the only team over the last 9 seasons (2010-18) to allow less than 5 touchdowns (4) & 1,050 total net yards (1,037) through their first four games of the season.— Tad Dickman (@TDickman89) October 4, 2018
The Chiefs are also benefactors of playing in the loudest stadium in the NFL, and in a deafening environment like Arrowheard, the Jaguars are going to need be on the same page in regards to communication on the offensive line and snap counts. This is where it is crucial that veteran center and communication captain Brandon Linder suits up this week, and hopefully Hackett has a plan in place where they can mitigate the noise with silent snap counts. Don’t expect too many “Sunday, Sunday” (hand claps) from Bortles this week.
The other major storyline for this week is the weather forecast, which is calling for 100% chance of rain. I can’t remember the last time Blake Bortles has had to play in extremely rainy conditions (perhaps someone can assist on this in the comments), but he struggled mightily last year in cold and windy conditions on the road in Tennessee. Conversely, Mahomes’ arm is so strong that it shouldn’t matter whether he is playing in rain or shine. Logically, the rain should favor the Chiefs, who can take advantage of some poor punts on special teams and benefit from the absence of Leonard Fournette to churn out tough, ugly yards.
Jalen Ramsey vs. Tyreek Hill
I understand that Ramsey won’t be traveling with Cheetah and they won’t be single-matched often, but the back-and-forth diatribe this week will make this must-see TV. My biggest concern when they are matched up is how aggressively Ramsey plays curl and hook routes, anchoring and driving to break and make a play on the football. This mentality can really make Ramsey susceptible to a Hill double move, and if Ramsey bites, it will be over.
10.#Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey on Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill (2): “Í made All-Pro at my position as a corner. I went to the Pro Bowl as a corner. So, it’s not a wide receiver-versus-corner matchup. So, we can get that out of the way off bat...”— John Oehser (@JohnOehser) October 4, 2018
Austin Seferian-Jenkins vs. Anthony Hitchens
No Eric Berry yet this season means that the Chiefs have struggled mightily against tight ends so far this season. ASJ isn’t having a huge year statistically, but this might be his break out game for the Jaguars offense, and I would expect Hackett to try and attack the seams early while the Chiefs back seven are overly-concerned with short crossers underneath.
Dede Westbrook vs. Orlando Scandrick
Scandrick has taken most of the slot reps in nickel and he has not played very well since signing his one-year deal in Kansas City. His lack of foot speed at this stage in his career has been glaring, and it wouldn’t be surprising in the least if the Chiefs match up their best cornerback in Kendall Fuller, who was one of the league’s best nickels in Washington, on Westbrook to even up the match up. Of course, doing this will weaken them on the perimeter for Donte Moncrief and Keelan Cole to challenge deep against one of the weaker starting safety duos in the league.
Calais Campbell vs. Mitchell Schwartz
Schwartz has played like the best right tackle in football across the first four weeks and Calais Campbell will have his hands full in trying to get to the quarterback. I would expect Campbell to slide inside next to Malik Jackson a ton this week in obvious passing situations and give Dante Fowler Jr.’s speed a go against Schwartz. The Jaguars will need to bring a ton of pressure to make Mahomes uncomfortable to have a chance.
Josh Wells vs. Justin Houston
Josh Wells has performed admirably so far in relief duty for the injured Cam Robinson, but he hasn’t necessarily squared off against a world-beater edge rusher to this point. That will change this week against Justin Houston, and Dee Ford is no slouch either in the event they flip their outside linebackers. Ford has been dealing with a groin injury this season, but he was their most effective rusher last week. This will undoubtedly be Wells’ biggest test of the season.
I can hear Alfie’s voice now — “How are the Chiefs supposed to score 30 points?”
I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they do this week. I think the Jaguars will struggle containing Mahomes in the pocket similar to Marcus Mariota a few weeks ago, and the only difference is Mahomes has a howitzer of an arm compared to Mariota’s water gun. My feeling is that the Jaguars offense will get the ball in a two-minute drill situation where they need a touchdown and Bortles and company won’t be able to overcome the crowd noise and inclement weather.
I think Chiefs win 30-24.